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Learning English as Second Language

In an interview I used to conduct to place an executive in our overseas operation.

Tell me about your strength. I asked.

I no understand. The reply I got from the candidate who boasts of having MBA from a local university.

Oh my God. You can’t even understand simple English and you have the cheek to ask for this job placement. I am sorry. I cannot take you.

3 out of 5 candidates and 2 with MBA could not converse well in English and they wanted to be posted overseas. Gila!

Hello! You are going to be in a foreign country where you need to converse and write memos in English my friend.

It keeps me wondering. If local MBA graduates are very weak in English, what is the quality of such a graduate internationally? No wonder none of Malaysia public universities were ranked amongst the top 200 universities in the world. I think UM and USM and even UKM was in the ranked before but of late they are nowhere to be seen. Does it mean the quality of these three has dwindled? I am not sure.

I did some research and I discover that the main reason was that probably many courses were now conducted in Bahasa Malaysia. Oi…ye kerrr

Come to think of it there is some truth in it. I was helping my son in his Accounting and I keep wondering why it was conducted in Bahasa Malaysia. Having spent some good years in auditing and accounting I have always thought that accounting terms in English is easier to understand than that in Bahasa Malaysia.

During my audit/accounting days I always find it very difficult to write reports in Bahasa Malaysia especially when I have to audit koperasi. I have also found it very difficult to read Economics and then Law subjects in Bahasa Malaysia. I am not belittling Bahasa Malaysia but I think more often than not, English is easier to understand.

Today I read about some people who wanted to change back the teaching of science and mathematics in school from English to Bahasa Malaysia. Why? I observed that my children command of English has improved tremendously after the switched. As a matter of fact their performance in both subjects has also improved by leaps and bounds. I was worried in the first place but I took it positively and the results have been encouraging.

I share the vision of leaders who thought about making Malaysia a world class reservoir for learned people with good command of English language. I also thought that in this very competitive world where you want foreign direct investments to come into the country, good command of English will certainly help.

Use of English should not be politicized. As opposed to some people who thought of having more students going to public universities I think quality should not be sacrificed. I still recall a friend from a neighboring Asean country who said he graduated from his country’s public university in accounting with honors, but he has problems with his accounting when he was my audit assistant. He said every bloke in his country who finishes high school will be admitted into the public university. All courses are conducted in their native language.

English I think should be used as educational language in Malaysia. I think the current practice suffice as it helps the students’ future. At least with a good command of the language, it will make them marketable not only in Malaysia but also outside Malaysia. A graduate in accounting with honors from our local universities may not be marketable overseas as opposed to those who have CACA or CIMA which is accepted in many parts of the world. Malaysia is a small country. One day maybe there will be fewer jobs in Malaysia and those with good command of English can trade their qualifications elsewhere outside Malaysia. We have got to think out of the box.

Come what may, I may not have the power to change what the masses want but I will make sure my children will at least master English as their second language. I have always told them to learn other languages if they could. This was also what my late abah has always told his children. His English is impeccable. None of us could speak and write as good as he could and ironically none of us converse the language at home. We all spoke Bahasa Malaysia!


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